Famed beach volleyball player and two-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh visited the Blackford campus on Dec. 21 to give a pair of volleyball clinics to middle and lower school students. A Bay Area native and volleyball star since college, Walsh attended Archbishop Mitty High School and won national titles in 1996 and 1997 while at Stanford University. With her teammate Misty May-Treanor, Walsh was awarded Sportswoman of the Year from the Women’s Sports Foundation in 2004 and 2006. The appearance was arranged with the help of Harker volleyball coach Theresa “Smitty” Smith, a long-time friend of Walsh’s.
“It was really amazing because she’s like my role model and I want to be just like her when I’m older,” said Shannon Richardson, grade 7.
Walsh ran the students through several warm-up exercises and drills, having them work on fundamental aspects of the game such as passing and setting.
“I think fundamentals get glossed over a little bit,” Walsh said. “I feel like, especially at this age level, you need to take the time to really just break the game down.”
Students spent a significant portion of the lesson in pairs, passing and setting the ball to each other. In another exercise, Walsh hit the ball toward each student, who then made an attempt to keep the ball from touching the floor, a skill known as digging. After working rigorously on ball control, the focus shifted briefly to hitting and spiking.
Ball control, Walsh said, is especially important for young volleyball players to learn, and said she noticed improvement in the students’ ball control as the clinic progressed. “If you have great ball control, that means you’ll be an asset to any team,” she said.
“She gave a lot of good advice to us,” said Doreen Kang, grade 7. “It’ll help me a lot.”
Walsh’s biggest piece of advice to the students was to believe in themselves: “Don’t be afraid to look silly and take risks, because that’s when you become great, when you take those risks, and learn from your mistakes.”